Leicester University. Faced with a drop of 3 per cent in the number of undergraduate applications in both 2005 and 2006, Leicester University decided to tackle the challenge by getting personal. It devised a lonely hearts-themed campaign that reached over 16,000 households in June of last year.
Its direct-mail flyers presented the university's "synergistic" approach to teaching and research. Written in the style of a lonely hearts advert, the copy stressed Leicester's "passion" for "enthusiastic and energetic students".
The campaign attracted an impressive 9.2 per cent response rate and boosted attendance at open days by 65 per cent over the year before. More than 6 per cent of those who received the direct mailing applied for entry in 2007.
Entries for this award were judged by Clive Parry, sales and marketing director at publishers SAGE, and Tricia Wombell, director of marketing and communications at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.
They said: "The entries for The Times Higher Marketing Initiative of the Year showed that higher education institutions are becoming increasingly professional in marketing themselves. While all the campaigns had strong elements, two entries stood out as being particularly strong on all the criteria we reviewed and were accompanied by detailed supporting information: Manchester Metropolitan University and Leicester University.
"MMU made a particularly strong effort to get organisational buy-in into their campaign and performed an impressively detailed post-campaign analysis of its effectiveness - an essential part of any campaign as marketing rightly becomes increasingly accountable.
"However, Leicester pips Manchester Met to the post with a successful multi-phase direct-mail-based campaign that was well planned, executed and evaluated but was also clearly driven by a detailed understanding of the perceptions of their institution and of the benefits of studying at Leicester that they wanted to communicate to their prospective students."